LOS ANGELES – United States authorities investigating what caused a high-speed Amtrack passenger train to derail and spill cars onto a highway below in the northwestern state of Washington – killing at least three people – were due to focus on Tuesday on information recovered from a data recorder indicating the train was traveling at 130-kph (80-mph) on a curve with a 48-kph speed limit.
Train 501 was en route from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, when it went off the tracks on Monday during the morning rush hour as it was crossing an overpass over Highway I-5 near the town of DuPont, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Seattle.
“Preliminary indications are that the train was traveling at 80 mph on a 30 mph track,” Bella Dinh-Zarr, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told a press conference late on Monday, citing initial information collected from an event data recorder in the rear locomotive of the train.
The section where the fatal accident occurred was on a curve, officials said.
Washington State Patrol confirmed that three people had died in the accident and 23 were injured, 10 seriously.
There were 78 passengers and 5 crewmembers on board the train at the time of the crash, Amtrak and police said, adding that all 12 of the train’s cars and one of its two locomotives derailed during the incident.
Some five motor vehicles and two semi-trucks on the highway below were hit by the falling train cars, police added, while at least one train car landed upside down and another was left dangling from the bridge over the highway.
Police reported injuries but no fatalities among the morning commuters whose vehicles crashed into the debris of the derailed train.
The train had departed from Seattle at 6:00 am and the incident took place at 7:40 am between the Washington cities of Tacoma and Olympia.
The train was making an inaugural run on part of a $180 million rail project aimed at speeding up transport in the region, Amtrack said.